Arkona - Vo Slavu Velikim (Vic/Riot)

To many people pagan/folk bands pretty much sound the same, though they may come from Ireland or Azerbaijan. You can't listen to Arkona and mistake their Russian origin, however. And with one of the best female metal vocalists, Arkona is an act to watch out for...

To many people pagan/folk bands pretty much sound the same, though they may come from Ireland or Azerbaijan. You can't listen to Arkona and mistake their Russian origin, however. Vo Slavu Velikim (For the Glory of the Great Ones) is dripping with that Russian feel and lyric, heavily accented from start to finish. Russophiles will love the pipes and background 'hoy!' in the chorus of Sila Slavnyh. But that is just one minor moment in an album saturated with Slavic offerings.

They do the folk, as well as the metal elements, very well. Arkona can blend the two elements together and also perform them separately convincingly. It is refreshing to note Vladimir's usage of real flute and pipes instead of relying entirely on synthesised traditional instruments, like so many soulless tourists on the scene.

The folk movements are not just played on the traditional instruments alone, Zov Bitvy is a thrashy track, the folk parts having their turns played on traditional, as well as amplified, instruments. This runs through much of the content.

An outstanding element of Arkona definitely worthy of note is the vocals - they really help to set the scene and sound of the album, if not the band. People shout the virtues of Angela Gossouw from Arch Enemy, and so they should; but Arkona's frontwoman Masha 'Scream' Arhipova really does kick some arse. Her vocals have a fresh diversity, from clean melodic folk, to full metal growls and screams - and not the try-hard 'I want to sound like the guys' kind of embarrassing bilge so often dished out by women who find themselves in metal bands. Masha is metal as fuck!

Arkona offers a great variety of music throughout this release. For example Po Syroi Zemle is a bit of an epic but never becomes a chore to listen to. There is even a chorus to slosh your glass of vodka to, which should be cheesy but just isn't. The track never stays in a groove long enough to get boring.

Vo Slavu Velikim varies in intensity. Some tracks focus on folk, others on metal blend. While it is not crushingly heavy it's on the upper end of heavy, so don't think female vocalist = timid!

This is their third album, Ot Serdtsa K Nebu, their fourth was released in 2007. Watch out for this band!

Arkona's Vo Slavu Velikim is available now on Vic/Riot.